Everybody knows (or so the song goes) that you can roast chestnuts on an open fire. The definitive taste of the holidays has been immortalized in song, but these nutrient rich, gluten-free and flavour-packed ‘goodies’ can strike many different chords in the kitchen and are not just limited to an open flame.
Chestnuts have been around for centuries and were once a life-preserving staple of diets throughout Europe. They weren’t recognized in song until Nat King Cole recorded the Mel Torme-penned “The Christmas Song” in 1944, though Voltaire, the famous French writer and philosopher, lauded their nourishing goodness in his writings in 1785.
Chestnuts have played a significant role in France throughout history. France still celebrates the chestnut with its own holiday and produces some of the finest chestnut products available anywhere on the market.
Chestnuts: More than just for roasting
Today, that wonderful chestnut flavour comes in a wide variety of culinary notes. Just as music has evolved, blending these notes together with other inspired ingredients will let you make your own enduring song in the kitchen that goes far beyond the traditional preparation.
What can you do with chestnuts?
Roasting whole chestnuts never goes out of style and you don’t have to use an open fire. An oven will do just fine. You can also steam, boil and deep-fry them to enjoy this sweet, meaty nut. Once cooked, eat them as they are, or the creative opportunities for chestnuts are endless. The texture rivals a baked potato and adding some chestnut to a holiday stuffing mix for turkey is a natural choice.
Chestnut puree can be used to inject some signature holiday sweetness into a wide variety of dishes. Use it to create a chestnut puree soup or a delicious filling for ravioli. You can also fold it into whipped cream to create deliciously rich fillings for cakes, phyllo pastries, meringues and more.
France has a love affair with chestnut spread. Try some in your kitchen and chances are you’ll quickly join them. Blending the natural sweetness of chestnuts with a hint of real vanilla, high-quality chestnut spread from France is a fantastic treat on its own but for a festive holiday application, try mixing it with yogurt or cream cheese for a truly memorable fruit dip. Chestnut spread also helps make delicious fillings for pastries and desserts, or combine it with buttercream for the perfect icing to top off holiday baked goods.
When Voltaire sang his praise of chestnuts on paper, he was referring heavily to the healthy sweetness of chestnut flour used to make a wide variety of breads and baked goods in France during his time. Voltaire described chestnut flour bread as “more nourishing and tastier,” and by all accounts, he’s right. Chestnut flour is a great gluten-free alternative when making cakes, cookies, tarts and other desserts. Chestnut flour can also be used to make fantastic tasting fritters, gnocchi and crepes. Try using chestnut flour for a delicious gluten-free gravy for the turkey.
Glazed chestnuts, poached in vanilla-rich syrup, are a luxurious treat in France and will surprise and satisfy in your home as well. Also known as Marron Glace, glazed chestnuts can be enjoyed individually as is or dipped in chocolate. Try them chopped and sprinkled as a garnish on a variety of desserts and ice cream for a sure-to-be appreciated finishing touch.
Take your sweet potatoes to a new level with the addition of candied chestnuts. Candied chestnuts are delicious pieces of chestnut lightly poached in vanilla syrup that helps create instant holiday flavour when added as a topping to desserts. The French have been enjoying fine candied chestnuts in their famous traditional dessert, Mont Blanc, for centuries and it’s still a popular indulgence today.
Choosing Quality Chestnut Products
Not all chestnuts are created equal. There are a variety of chestnut trees throughout the chestnut-growing regions and each deliver a chestnut with slightly different tastes and qualities. Ask around in France, where chestnuts are a source of pride, and everyone will tell you that the chestnuts grown in their region are decidedly the best. France takes their chestnuts very seriously.
Some proud French families, such as the family of Clement Faugier, have been crafting artisanal chestnut products for more than 125 years. Faugier chestnut products have become gourmet staples on tables due to their delicious, authentic chestnut flavours and the high-quality chestnuts produced in the renowned Ardeche region of France. And as more people discover the versatility and unique flavour of chestnuts and sing their praises, you’ll find them on more and more tables all year long, not just during the holidays.